As most MTG players will know, Wizards of the Coast produces an awful lot of cards each year. Within 2023, for instance, Wizards has printed a staggering 4,693 cards! While this is undeniably both daunting and impressive, this count is actually rather low. When factoring in unique art and variants, the total jumps to a staggering 9,465 MTG cards!
Even if you’re a seasoned MTG player, this immense amount of art is obviously a lot to keep up with. So much so, in fact, that it can be rather hard to see what your opponent is playing from across the table. For the sake of collectability and aesthetics, legibility has gone out the window, and many players are sick of it.
As much as there are those against the avalanche of art, miraculously, some players want even more. Even more miraculously, however, if Wizards play their cards right, both sets of players can get what they want!
Delightful but Divisive
While there’s no denying that there’s an awful lot of art to keep up with, most of it is absolutely incredible. Being genuine works of art, there’s good reason to have any piece of artwork created for MTG this year up on your walls. Even if one specific card isn’t your thing, for another player, it may be the best thing they’ve ever seen.
Thanks to Secret Lair and new promotional variants, divisive art in MTG isn’t all too uncommon anymore. Rarely, however, is it seen on such wide a scale as The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Holiday Release. Within this unusual set, twenty cards received a visually striking Rock Poster treatment, with text all over the place.
As a literal poster, these commemorative cards would look fantastic, especially if you’re into the 80’s rock aesthetic. As MTG cards, however, they definitely have some flaws, as the text isn’t obvious when first glancing at the card. Requiring picking up the card for additional scrutiny, the art delays games via card comprehension.
Unsurprisingly, some MTG players are rather annoyed by this detail, as they don’t want to have their cards complicated. Usually, however, it’s not such a big deal since copies of these cards are rather rare, and typically expensive too. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case for the new Lord of the Rings cards, especially not on Magic Online.
Ignoring the Illegible
On paper, the new variants from The Lord of the Rings Holiday Release currently hold a moderate premium. Cards such as Sauron, the Dark Lord, for instance, typically sell for $3, while their Rock Poster variant is $38! Thanks to this, you’re hardly guaranteed to run into these unusual-looking cards in every game.
On Magic Online, however, this price difference is flipped. Thanks to a lack of physical scarcity, some of the new Rock Poster variants cards are actually cheaper digitally. Since a lot of MTG players love a bargain, this potentially could lead to the cards becoming unexpectedly common within the game. Considering the difficulties in parsing the card, many players aren’t too happy about this.
Voicing their concerns, MTG Pro and Streamer Andrea Mengucci recently took to Twitter. Highlighting the problem, Mengucci showcased Magic Online prices for The One Ring. While not massively different, the price gap is nonetheless notable. After all, as Mengucci states “it pains to see this being the cheaper Ring so people will play it more.”
Beyond just highlighting the problem, Mengucci also suggested a fix for this issue. “Please @MagicOnline add a feature to disable alt arts for opponents (like exists on MTGArena).” With multiple players voicing their support for this idea, hopefully, Daybreak Games can and will implement this desired feature.
Unfortunately, while players may know what they want, there’s no guarantee this feature will be implemented. Not only because it will take development recourses, but also because collectability does sell. As evidenced by MTG’s immense valuation, there’s a huge market for collectible cards. So much so, in fact, that Daybreak could be hesitant to implement that feature.
Ultimately, we’re just going to have to hope and wait to see if Daybreak Games gives players what they want.
Marvelous But Missing
While Magic Online players might not be loving the newly added art, unfortunately, MTG Arena players are missing out. Not only did they not get the new Rock Poster card styles, but they’re also missing most of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Only revealed by Wizards shortly before the set’s release, MTG Arena is missing three of the set’s best styles.
“Treasure Trove Box Toppers, Special Guests, and the Legends of Ixalan/Gods of Ixalan showcase treatments will not be available on MTG Arena”
Only just realizing this lack of alternate art, many MTG players are rightfully disappointed and absolutely baffled. Taking to Reddit, many players wondered what on earth Wizards were thinking, as these card styles were seriously good. Good enough, in fact, that many players were willing to put their money where their mouth is.
“Completely bewildered as to why they chose to not have these on the platform. A precedence has been set and there’s been no clarification as to why we aren’t getting them, including the full art lands.”
“This is some of the best art we’ve had in a while and it’s what they decide to withhold? Just say you don’t want money…”
Since we’re not Wizards ourselves, unfortunately, we don’t know exactly why these card styles have been mitigated. As u/calamity_unbound suggests, however, Khans of Tarkir could be to blame. Since this re-released set contains new cards and mechanics, it’s possible Wizards has had to be careful when allocating resources. If this is true, it certainly would explain this unusual oddity.
Regardless of whether or not Khans of Tarkir is demanding resources now, we’d still love to see these card styles appear in the future. From the looks of things, should they be in the store they’d be incredibly popular, so hopefully Wizards can find the time. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen.